Mon, Aug 29, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Draft Iraqi charter accepted over Sunni objections


The Iraqi parliament accepted the draft of the new constitution yesterday, ending the tortuous process of framing a democratic charter for the new Iraq, but failing to win the approval of Sunni Arabs.

Sunni negotiators immediately rejected the document drawn up by the Shiite and Kurdish alliance, and asked the UN and Arab League to intervene.

The document, which included last-minute changes aimed at easing Sunni concerns, was read to lawmakers. It was not put to a vote in the assembly in which the Shiite-Kurdish bloc has an overwhelming majority.

Hajim al-Hassani, the Sunni Arab speaker of the legislature, was not present but deputy speaker Hussain al-Shahristani, a Shiite, told reporters that the speaker agreed with all parts of the draft -- but had "other appointments."

Al-Hassani had been playing a major role in the final negotiations on the charter, which now goes to the Iraqi people in a referendum on Oct. 15.

Technically, no vote was required by parliament. At one time, officials wanted a vote as an affirmation of unity between the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, but that idea was shelved because of Sunni objections to the document and repeated delays in finalizing the draft.

Sheik Humam Hammoudi, the chairman of the committee that drafted the document, said it "guarantees freedoms and equalizes between everyone, women and men and different ethnic groups and respects the ideologies of this nation and the religion of this society."

But the joint statement by the 15-member Sunni negotiating team immediately rejected the document.

"We declare that we don't agree and we reject the articles that were mentioned in the draft and we did not reach consensus on them in what makes the draft illegitimate," the statement said. "We call upon the Arab League, the United Nations, and international organizations to intervene so that this document is not passed and so that the clear defect in it is corrected."

Saleh al-Mutlaq, a top Sunni negotiator, told Alhurra Television that a conference of all opponents of the new constitution will be called to decide their next move.

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